Ben halpern

Ben Halpern

Co-founder Forem

Ben Halpern is co-founder of Forem.

Description

In this episode, Ben and I talk about the conception of CodeLand, last year's CodeLand, which had to switch to a virtual conference due to covid-19, and the biggest differences between CodeLand 2020 and CodeLand 2021. Registration for CodeLand is pay-what-you-want -- starting at $0. Grab your CodeLand 2021 ticket today at codelandconf.com. That’s codelandconf.com.

Show Notes

Transcript

[00:00:05] SY: Welcome to the CodeNewbie Podcast where we talk to people on their coding journey in hopes of helping you on yours. I’m your host, Saron. And today, we’re talking about CodeLand 2021 with Ben Halpern, Co-Founder of Forem and DEV, which acquired CodeNewbie in 2020.

[00:00:21] BH: There’s no acceptance tests for, “Hey, is it special? Is there a community environment?” This is not like a code question. Like, “What does it mean to be in an online conference?”

[00:00:31] SY: Registration for CodeLand is pay what you want, starting at $0. Grab your CodeLand 2021 ticket today at codelandconf.com. In this episode, Ben and I talk about the conception of CodeLand, last year’s CodeLand, which had to switch to a virtual conference due to COVID-19, and the biggest differences between CodeLand 2020 and CodeLand 2021 after this.

[MUSIC BREAK]

[00:01:05] SY: Thanks so much for being here.

[00:01:06] BH: Thanks so much for having me, Saron.

[00:01:08] SY: So Ben, we’ve had you on the show before where we talked about entrepreneurship. But for those people who may not have heard that episode, give us a refresher of who you are.

[00:01:17] BH: Yeah. I started coding I guess like fiddling around with HTML and CSS when I was in junior high, but never really took on coding as a full-time craft until after college and really saw in combination with entrepreneurship is another interest of mine. So really most of my coding journey has been creatively bringing my ideas to life, and as an entrepreneur started DEV as the practical DEV on Twitter and evolved to DEV.to, which we then transitioned our organizational goals into proliferating community in a broader sense through Forem, which is the open source extraction of the platforms. So we let anybody host a community and to represent that. If you go to community.codenewbie.org, that is actually a special forum dedicated for the advancement of newbies and everything that CodeNewbie is all about, and that’s actually where CodeLand 2021 is being hosted.

[00:02:24] SY: So let’s talk about the Forem CodeNewbie acquisition. From your perspective, why do this partnership make sense?

[00:02:31] BH: Yeah. Well, I really felt like we were pushing the same ideas and the same opportunities and we really saw CodeNewbie as the best version of a thing we wanted to promote anyway. So the opportunity to really give CodeNewbies both a voice and something to latch on to, be part of a group, and I’ve been really impressed with CodeNewbie from the beginning. Before I started DEV, I was a follower of CodeNewbie, active participant in the community. And I thought that where you were as an entrepreneur in your journey, you’d been doing CodeNewbie for so long, it seemed like a really good time to ensure that we could invigorate it, that you could branch off and find opportunities to spread your wings, do new things, and the timing I think in that regard what was great. That felt like a really great partnership.

[00:03:32] SY: Yeah, I totally agree. And I think that, for me, I was really excited about the opportunity to give CodeNewbie a home that frankly had better resources. You guys were a bigger organization. You guys had funding and I was really excited to use some of those resources to help serve the community even better, to make it stronger, to help more early career developers, people who are totally new to coding. I was really excited about the opportunity to hopefully add value to Forem, but definitely for Forem to add value to CodeNewbie. So I think that the alliance was really great. I think the fact that we have worked together previously on a number of different projects, we have the same values, we have the same vision for how we want tech to grow and what we want the tech community to be made it a very easy conversation and a very easy decision, I think, on both parts. And I’m really glad. Almost two years. It’s almost been two years. It seems to be working out. So I’m really happy about that. So what was attractive to you about CodeLand specifically?

[00:04:37] BH: I really love the quality of the format, the consistency of the speakers. It wasn’t just thrown together and some speakers will take an hour and 20 minutes and everyone’s tapping on their watches and then some are like telling the audience they just prepared their slides last night, so bear with me.

[00:04:59] SY: Those are the worst. That makes me so mad.

[00:05:03] BH: So your commitment to making everyone’s time useful, some conferences succeed despite for programming because at least people come together and it is fun. So that’s one thing. And then the inclusion, the genuine commitment to the CodeNewbie ideals and the community and a lot of things, I think tech conferences sometimes are overly commercialized, overly capitalized, like purely priced in order for your company to pay for you to get there, instead of it being accessible for somebody who might just be getting into tech and who needs that community the most. So I think on a lot of fronts the purpose of CodeLand in the marketplace of conferences and just how special it was in relation to that was such an awesome thing and all things, the spirit of CodeLand, the heart propped up by a lot of attention to quality and inclusion, it all comes together to have been one of the most exciting things about bringing on CodeNewbie.

[00:06:15] SY: Absolutely.

[00:06:16] BH: So we talked about the conception of CodeNewbie in the past and I’d love to hear a little bit more about where CodeLand comes from, because that wasn’t the first initiative of CodeNewbie and probably takes a big commitment to think that a conference is the next thing you want to pull off, especially when you’re running such a small, tight organization. So Saron, do you want to let the audience know a little bit about where the idea of CodeLand came to be in the first place and why you chose to pursue it?

[00:06:48] SY: Yeah. The idea of CodeLand just came from the conferences I attended. I do a lot of speaking, been all over the world, doing speaking on community, on reading code, on luck and hard work and a bunch of different topics. And I feel that a lot of conferences are very well-designed for more senior developers, for more experienced developers, but they’re not necessarily ideal for early career developers. And so I really wanted an opportunity to create an experience, to craft an experience specifically designed for early career developers. And having a conference, producing a conference had been on my mind for at least a year or two before I started working on CodeLand. It was always kind of in the back of my mind. And I remember saying to myself, because the first three years of CodeNewbie, I had a full-time job and it was the last three years that I did it full time. And so while I was working on my full-time job, I said to myself, “Man, if I ever get a chance to quit and do this full time, I’m going to do a conference.” And it was one of the first things I did once I left my job at Microsoft to do CodeNewbie full-time. I dove deep into CodeLand and producing that conference. So yeah, it came from seeing what a lot of conferences did right, what a lot of conferences missed when it comes to newer developers and trying to create an experience that was ideal for us.

[00:08:10] BH: In the evolution of CodeLand after you pulled off one conference and then a second year and so on, what were the pieces of feedback that helped you evolve and make future conferences better?

[00:08:24] SY: I think that it was a lot of smaller things that kind of added up to the whole conference experience. So for example, one of the pieces of feedback that we got that it might seem silly, but actually makes a big difference is food and how we did not properly label all the food. So people didn’t know what food they could eat and couldn’t eat in terms of being like gluten free, dairy free, that sort of thing. That seems like as far as the long list of conferences go of things that you can miss or do in your to-do list, it feels like a small thing. But for the conference goer, that’s a really big deal. “Can I fuel up and what can I eat throughout the day?” We learn a little bit about trigger warnings and the importance of having those. We learned about photography and people not wanting to be photographed, not wanting to be on social media. And as someone who is very big on Twitter and very active on social media, it never occurred to me that people would not want to show their faces online and want to avoid having photographs taken of them in a public space. So that was something we learned from the first conference to the second conference and we created a solution to help remedy that. So it was a lot of these kinds of smaller details that add up to a conference experience. And I think that’s probably the tough part about putting on a conference is there are a lot of details. There are a lot of these little details you have to pay attention to and you really have one chance to get it right. If you think about creating a product, building a product, you can do another release, right? You can put out a release for features, for bug fixes, for security vulnerabilities. You can always make it better and you have an opportunity to just continuously deploy and develop. But a conference, you’ve got the days of the conference. And if your conference is two days, you got two days to get it right. And if you don’t get it right, you got to wait a whole year. It was really important to just care about those little details and to really stay on top of things.

[00:10:22] BH: So I’ve certainly been to conferences, perhaps all conferences, other than CodeLand, unless I’m missing something that don’t have such explicit feedback forms in the first place. I think that was sort of part of the innovation of CodeLand itself. But it certainly seems very up your alley in terms of your approach. Is there something about like the feedback form philosophy that why you treat that part so seriously?

[00:10:52] SY: Yeah. I mean, I think that if you’re serving the community, you have to listen to the community and they’re the ones that are going to tell you when you’re doing a good job, when you’re messing up, when you are moving in the right direction, when you’ve totally missed something entirely. So it was really important to me to give the community an opportunity to speak up and to say, “Hey, I really like this.” Or, “Man, this really sucked.” And so feedback has always been extremely important to me. The weekly Twitter chats we do are a way for people to get to know each other and to connect and to express themselves and to find community, but it’s also a great way for us to get to know our community too. It’s a great way for us to see what are people thinking about, what are they talking about, what’s on their minds, and a way for us to engage and just understand the people that we’re trying to serve. So similarly, I wanted to give people a very safe, a very explicit way and all the feedback forms are anonymous and we give people really great incentives. We raffle off some really awesome prizes and we really encourage people to just be brutally honest with us and to teach us how to be better. And that’s where we got those lessons that we learned. Those feedback forms are absolutely crucial. And if you’re doing a conference, I highly encourage you to give people an opportunity to give you that feedback.

[00:12:06] BH: And with all of this, what are the concepts and activities that you’re most proud of in terms of how CodeLand has turned out over the years?

[00:12:13] SY: The thing that I’m most proud of that we’ve done is our program booklet. So we have a program booklet that is very different from how other program booklets look, how they operate, where we wanted to create a booklet that was a good sidekick essentially to every talk. So we ask the speakers. We said, “Give us a list of the key terms that are used in your talk and give us a list of resources that people might want to look up after the talk is over.” So we put that in a page specifically for that talk. We offered some speaker backgrounds, speaker bio, social media handles, et cetera, kind of your basic information. And then we had terms and definitions for the key things that the speaker might talk about. And the idea is if someone mentions React and you’re not quite sure what React is, maybe you’ve heard of it, but it’s not quite clear, you can just look at your conference booklet for that talk and you can read a quick definition, a one-liner that tells you what it is. We had our note section attached to each talk as well and we gave everyone a pen. So if you wanted to take some notes on questions you have on your favorite parts of the talk, et cetera, you have an opportunity to do that as well. So trying to make it an interactive experience and opportunity for people to really learn and to make sure that they are able to follow along. A lot of the issues that I experienced when I was a newer developer, going to tech conferences, is that I just didn’t know people were talking about. They would use all kinds of words and buzzwords and lingo and things that I just wasn’t familiar with. And so I would get lost almost immediately. And then I spent the rest of the conference trying to catch up and just really had no idea what was going on. And we wanted to give people a foundation, a starting point to avoid feeling lost, to avoid feeling like they didn’t belong at that conference and in that talk. So that booklet, it took a lot of work and a very long time to put it together each year that we did it, but it is one of my favorite things that we’ve done.

[00:14:09] BH: Yeah. The software industry probably not only overlooks the opportunity to provide this type of education, but whether purposeful or not is sometimes proud of maybe jargon that not everyone understands or the in club or like this talk is for the ones that really know already, like, “Don’t come to my talk if you’re not caught up on everything that’s been going on.” And CodeLand really flips that on its head and along with everything with CodeNewbie.

[MUSIC BREAK]

[00:14:57] SY: So when you acquired CodeNewbie, what were your initial plans for the first CodeLand produced by DEV?

[00:15:04] BH: I’ve been to every CodeLand ever. This was not like we brought you in without knowing maybe what made CodeLand special, but with the idea of putting it on, it’s really the little things and that vision. So we tried to ask you what made CodeLand special and really put our campaign production to work to try to make it happen and also have the opportunity to ask you what you might have wanted to do, but you didn’t have it together to pull off. There’s always a good opportunity to start fresh when people are given a change or a chance to collaborate with new people and find out what little things we could do right, what matters, does a two-day conference versus one-day matter. You’ve messed around with the format a lot. So I think a lot of it’s getting used to asking what is really the secret sauce and then what’s actually just an incidental detail. And I don’t care that much one way or another about this sort of thing. So it was really about finding out what makes it special and trying to keep that going. It was the original plan really.

[00:16:19] SY: Then of course the pandemic happened and we have to make the decision to not have it be in New York City, but actually to move it remotely. Tell me about the moment that you personally kind of realized that we could not have an in-person event and how you made that decision?

[00:16:35] BH: So it was a weird time for all of us at the moment, but we just decided we needed to make the switch and make the most of it before it was a hundred percent obvious that all conferences would have had to do that in 2020. There’s a few mental models maybe supporting this sort of thing. I’ve always subscribed to the notion that people sort of underestimate ways things can change, if they’re just like 10% outside of their experience, like nobody really saw any of this coming. So trying not to be too knee-jerk around it, like, “Oh, this will all go back to normal,” yada, yada. So just trying to really examine the different scenarios and come in quickly to the realization, “Okay, this has to go online and we have to then make the most of it.” So we were, I think, decently prepared. DEV is so much about online communities and we had an idea for how we could pull this off and we kept a lot of the process the same, I think. We tried to stay true to what CodeLand was in spirit and in tradition while also not trying to just replicate the online conference experience one for one. I think there’s a lot of stuff you just can’t provide, especially in 2020 when everyone’s just scrambling. And this is sort of transitioning from, “Okay, let’s just find out what’s the secret sauce of CodeLand and try to make it as good as the last ones have been, and that’s going to be great and people are going to really love it,” to, “All right, we need to take the good stuff and really invent some new ideas on top of it.” That was the transition. I don’t know how it went for other conference planners. I think everyone was sort of simultaneously dealing with this. But for us, we made the most of it and we put our creativity to the test and it went over pretty well last year.

[00:18:42] SY: What were some of those new ideas, new things that we had to put in place? From your perspective, from DEV’s perspective, what did it end up looking like?

[00:18:53] BH: What we came to was the notion that content still mattered, the same, that feeling of togetherness and people being online at the same time and being able to engage with one another, but without being too forcing of it or trying to replicate like the different rooms of a conference, just sort of giving people an opportunity to be together in whatever the format made sense. And we wound up hosting it on DEV. So if you go to DEV.to/codeland, you’ll see like it’s kind of been torn down a little bit since it was live, but you’ll see what the page looked like and how you got to different areas and things like that. And we already built this community platform. So we really took the opportunity to just build on top of it in a special way. And because it’s built on Forem, our open source community software, it actually naturally took very, very well to extending, to run a little conference on the platform without us having to write new code into the platform because of just the way the software was built. So we made it feel like it was really a native part of DEV and it was an all-hands-on-deck effort. It really came together. And Ridhwana from our team, I recall, really taking the lead and putting together from the software engineering side so much of what went down. I think she really understood what CodeLand was supposed to be. The people involved really came together and wrote some code and made it all happen.

[00:20:32] SY: What was the hardest part about going into the virtual event space? I know for a lot of people this is completely uncharted territory and they had to figure out what it even meant to have an online conference. What was the hardest part for you?

[00:20:45] BH: I think the hardest part was getting ourselves convinced that we could omit certain details of what a conference could be and add certain details and really trust our guts around what it meant to gather online and have that be special. Because there’s no acceptance tests for, “Hey, is it special? Is there a community environment?” This is not like a code question. Like, “What does it mean to be in an online conference?” It’s not about the reliability of the stream. Of course, that’s important.

[00:21:19] SY: Right. Right.

[00:21:21] BH: We use YouTube Live to put on the stream and we use a lot of good tooling and things like that and we didn’t try to invent it from scratch. We tried to lean in on the pieces of DEV, which is an instance of Forem to make some of the community stuff happen effectively, but convincing ourselves that we could trust ourselves to generally know how to pull this off pretty effectively and do it on time and commit to some dates and make our speakers feel prepared and welcome and have folks from all over the world come gather. And last year, the day wound up being like we were on for like 12 or 13 straight hours. I think we are doing stuff a little different this year based on what was a little too much or too little last year in certain areas. But yeah, the hard part was just being even able to make the decision to really like, “All right, this is what we’re doing and we’re doing it.” It’s easy to have discussions and little committees and you’re not able to fully make a decision. So you do like three things instead of just one. So the hard part I think is just like without being too dictatorial, just getting everybody on the same page and making sure we’re going to commit to some decisions and then hope for the best.

[00:22:42] SY: So let’s go to CodeLand 2021 this year. So we’re keeping it virtual again. Let’s talk about the decision because that decision was made before the Delta variant, before the spike happened again, right? It was kind of in the timeframe where it looked like things were probably going to get better. Vaccines were most likely going to be rolled out and it really could have gone either way at the time. Now I think we’re all very happy that we decided to make it virtual. But back then, tell me about how we came to that decision.

[00:23:14] BH: So I think if it were like me personally, having to make this decision in a vacuum, I probably would have made the wrong choice and had like said, “Hey, in-person community is so special. Let’s try and get back to that. It will be an opportunity. Based on the timing of this, we’re looking at September. Things look like they’re getting so much better.” Like, “Let’s keep this going.” And just like last year when we saw things sort of getting a little worse and we smartly made the projection that, “Okay, this pandemic is here for real.” I think this year I was like very excited about the idea of doing it in person again. And I think the collective team ultimately was willing to make the right decision in the end. I think there is enough uncertainty. There’s enough different contexts. We have Abby Phoenix leading up the conference this year and she’s put on CodeLand conferences in the past with you and that’s how we got to know her. Now she’s a full-time employee of Forem.

[00:24:18] SY: She’s phenomenal.

[00:24:19] BH: Yeah. So I think in all things regarding this, like she’s 10 times smarter than me, I think, in terms of getting this type of thing right. A lot of this is like a combination of like certain people’s decision making criteria compared with other people’s and then ultimately doing what we collectively felt was the right thing. In the end, I think just by having like the right balance of people on the team with the right amount of like caution meets pragmatism, meets just needing to do it in a way that we ourselves are feeling like we can pull this off without it being just too much work or anything. And then also the special part of doing it online last year meant there were people from all over the world. We got folks from India, Brazil, like everyone showed up for CodeLand.

[00:25:12] SY: That was really cool. Yeah.

[00:25:14] BH: And that same special thing is going to happen again this year. And we don’t know what next year will hold, but this year it still seemed like taking the opportunity to gather people from all over the world with less risk and make the most of it. I'm very excited for the choices we made.

[00:25:30] SY: What are some of the big differences between CodeLand 2020 and the upcoming CodeLand? The great thing is we had our first online conference. This is an opportunity to do it better, learn from our mistakes, that sort of thing. So what are some of the big changes that we’re going to see?

[00:25:45] BH: We’re splitting it up and having the main talk portions be over two days and less overall lengthiness. I think the overall size of the event is proportioned more effectively. For me, like my recollection, just seeing you MC and just the effort that took, I don’t know if you want to speak to just like what that one day of…

[00:26:11] SY: It was a lot.

[00:26:12] BH: Yeah.

[00:26:14] SY: It was like 12 hours and the night before. So whenever I do an event, whether it’s speaking, MCing, whatever it is, I’m always paranoid that I’m going to oversleep and I’m going to miss the event. I get very, very worried about it. So I just kept waking up throughout the night being like, “Is it time? Is it time? Is it time?” And so I did not get a good night’s sleep the night before. And I don’t remember what time I had to wake up, but I think it was like 8:00 AM. I’m not a morning person. That is not my usual wake up time. And so I just remember being very tired and I would like sneak in five minute naps here and there throughout the day, but it was intense. It was a lot of fun. Absolutely loved it, but it was a lot. It was very intense.

[00:26:57] BH: And I recall being exhausted by the end of the day. And my day of workload was nothing compared to yours. Just being like around and needing to weigh in on little things here and there while also getting to take lunch breaks like in a much more substantial way than you and stuff like that, I recall being so beaten, the adjustment just to make the show a little bit more sustainable and then also we had so much engagement throughout the day, but it definitely tailored off as like people collectively just got a little like exhausted.

[00:27:29] SY: Yeah.

[00:27:29] BH: So I think the activities in the day are going to be simpler. And of course, we know, we didn’t think everyone was going to stick around the whole day last time because different time zones and people coming and going and maybe checking in on the one talk they care about. But the overall run of show I think is better paced and we have a combination of live and pre-recorded stuff, which isn’t totally different from last year, but we have some different types of content. We’ll have different threads that people can weigh in on and we’ve made some slight technical adjustments here and there. We’ve run the thing on Forem. So we got a year of just further software development into that.

[00:28:10] SY: Further development. Yeah.

[00:28:11] BH: That core product we do. And we don’t have to have that all be about CodeLand in order to reap the benefits. So lots of little technical improvements. Oh, and one big difference is we are hosting it on community.codenewbie.org, instead of DEV. We just thought to compliment it. We should have a second space just for CodeNewbies and I think it’s going to be pretty much on par with the CodeLand experience folks had last year. But because it’s happening in a dedicated space, we got to kind of like take over the CodeNewbie experience to our heart’s content, as it relates to the full CodeLand experience. So folks are going to join us there. They’re going to take part in the experience. They’re going to peruse posts that people can make throughout the day, and it can all be CodeLand focused. We are doing workshops that are focused on the forum software itself, which is a little different. So if you’re listening, I think there’s still availability in those workshops, but definitely check that out on at the CodeLand website, if you’re interested in that in particular. Otherwise, you can register anyway, but just show up for talks and chit chat and things like that. But if you’re interested in Forem, we’re also giving some dedicated education on that topic.

[00:29:37] SY: Coming up next, Ben and I talk about some of the things we’re most excited about for CodeLand 2021 after this.

[MUSIC BREAK]

[00:29:55] SY: I think one of the things that makes online events, whether it’s a conference or just a one, two-hour workshop for an event, tough is figuring out the interactivity part of things, because when you’re at a physical location, interactivity is pretty organic. You’re all in a room, right? You’re looking at each other. You’re passing each other in the hallway. You’re in the same line. You ask for directions. It’s kind of an organic occurrence that people just bump into each other, talk to each other, see each other. Even if you don’t actively talk to another person, it still feels interactive to be physically in the same space. And when you’re trying to create those points of interaction online, you have to be a lot more intentional. It’s just a lot harder. So what are some things that we’re doing to give people an opportunity to kind of experience the conference in a more interactive way? How are we doing that?

[00:30:47] BH: So if you visited DEV or you visited CodeLand last year, there’s a lot of opportunities for discussion. We had a post per talk last year for Q&A. We have the live portions of sit-down chats and Q&A and then we have the opportunity for speakers to hang around and interact with the audience sort of synchronously and asynchronously. And in terms of doing these things deliberately, it really is about leaning into the little interactivity that we provide as a platform every day and just asking ourselves, like, “How can we do that in the best way sort of on this gathering day for CodeLand?” And we’re making a few technical choices to congregate people in more dedicated places, making things a little simpler. I believe we’re going to have most of the broad dedicated spaces on the CodeNewbie forum. I think we’re going to have some secondary chat spaces just to help people kind of connect more deeply in certain areas. The big thing is I think when you show up, you’re going to be able to sort of see what’s going on, on the main feed and then sort of find people where they are from there. So there’s posts with different types of prompts and there’s common threads around the talks people are putting out there and then we’ll have the hashtag on Twitter, a lot of the same things that people experience when they’re in a real conference, which is like a different space is going to have a different topic or vibe or opportunity to meet people or learn. And then there’s a lot of freedom to create the day in any way. So if most of the conversation winds up happening on Twitter, on the hashtag, like around the content of the conference, that’s great. If folks lean in on some of the discussion threads that we’re going to put out throughout the day on CodeNewbie, that’s awesome too. And overall, I think it’s going to feel pretty special. I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of spaces where folks are going to walk into an empty room. We’re just trying to bring people together, create environments to riff and discuss topics and to support one another. And if people are needing career guidance or have a question about it, an item that’s discussed in a talk and they need to ask it, like there’s going to be a place to ask that, there’s going to be a place to find things you need in your career and even things you didn’t know you need it. And I think that’s going to all kind of come together within the format.

[00:33:26] SY: Tell me about some of the themes that we’re covering this year. We’ve got a couple of really good ones. Tell me about those.

[00:33:31] BH: The themes are Code for Good, Early Career Confidence, Path to Programmer, Open Source Strong, and Technical Deep Dives. So I think there’s a little bit here for everybody. I think anybody listening to the CodeNewbie podcast is going to be able to latch on to a few of these themes. I personally feel like the end state is that this is going to be a couple of days of substantial impact on one’s career. Folks are going to come away feeling educated or inspired on any of these topics. And Saron, I’m wondering, what themes stand out to you?

[00:34:07] SY: Yeah. I’m really interested in Code for Good. That’s always been one of my favorite topics. We’ve had some similar topics in the past. And when I think about Code for Good, I think about we often focus as developers on the toolset. We look at all of our hammers and we try to find nails. And I love Code for Good because it forces us to think about the problem first, what are the problems that we see in our neighborhoods and our communities, just in the world in general, and how can we apply our skillset to those problems. So instead of it being tools first, it’s problem first. So I love those examples. It doesn’t all have to be about money. It doesn’t all have to be about building the biggest platform or the most profitable platform or anything like that. Again, just be for good. And sometimes you get paid for doing that good. Sometimes it's a non-profit situation. It comes in different forms. Sometimes it’s just a fun side project, but I just love this idea of highlighting the way we aren’t just using the tools, but the way we’re applying those tools for something that is positive for the communities. So that’s probably the one I’m most excited about.

[00:35:17] BH: Yeah. And some of the talks within Code for Good, certainly we’ll have an opportunity to have been part of the technical deep dives thing, depending on the angle you look at it. So we have a great looking accessibility talk in the Code for Good path. We have one about documentation and we have some documentation theme talks elsewhere. Yeah, the Code for Good path seems awesome. I think it puts certain technical or people concepts within the software industry in perspective in terms of like what they ultimately need to provide for the world in terms of the good. It’s really important that some of these topics are consistently talked about in a way that furthers the dialogue and every track I think brings a lot, especially for how many early career developers there are out there who are going to be attending this and folks may be like a little further in their career, but still experiencing imposter syndrome. I think several of the tracks are going to just provide a lot of impact and value for folks.

[00:36:27] SY: So what are the workshops going to look like this year?

[00:36:30] BH: As I mentioned, we are going all in on learning about contributing to and hosting Forem, which we don’t see as purely about like promoting our software, but more so using what we do specifically on a day to day as a means of educating folks in a really visceral sense. So Forem is a code base. It’s on github.com/forem/forem, F-O-R-E-M, stands for “For Empowering Community”. You’re going to have workshops around contributing to the code base and take those lessons and use them to contribute to any open source project or work within an open source community, possibly find jobs where you might maintain an open source project for your organization and things like that, and then hosting the self-hosted version of Forem, which we allow people to do that with a lot of control over how their Forem might exist in the universe, but you might not be so experienced with some of the things that it takes to spin up an SSL certificate for a website in a way that’s not specific to some service provider that you use in a non-open source sort of way. So there’s going to be some real learning opportunities I think within all things, posting code, contributing to code, and it’s so much a part of what we do to make our community spaces work. And we want it to be something that we share with the broader code community. We want people in 2021 and beyond to be able to host community spaces so that fewer things happen on Facebook groups and more things happen in dedicated online spaces run by specific community managers. And everything we do technically in the workshops will contribute to that future and we’re really excited to promote it.

[00:38:36] SY: What about the keynotes? What are some keynotes you're excited about?

[00:38:39] BH: I think they’re all really exciting. I’ll be giving one and mine is called Everything We Forgot to Tell You About Forem. So in discussing this, I think we do a lot of running Forem, DEV runs on Forem, but I wouldn’t be surprised if folks listen to this, haven’t paid attention to what we’re doing because it’s been such a long haul to get it out the door and to really make this a thing we can share with the world. I’m excited that I’m going to get to kind of sneak in there and provide a little bit of education and it’ll be live and it’ll be fun, but we have some really awesome keynoters. Gift Egwuenu has a keynote about learning in public, and I think she’s one of the foremost practitioners of this idea. I think she’s one of the most public, encouraging figures in the CodeNewbie space and DEV and the broader developer community. So I really love everything she brings to the table and I'm really I’d say looking forward to that one in particular.

[00:39:41] SY: So what are your hopes and fears for this year’s CodeLand?

[00:39:45] BH: I just hope it goes over as well as it can. As the second version of the digital one, there’s probably going to be some items we might take for granted in the lead up and aren’t able to deliver on all of it and stuff or we do something that’s like confusing and folks can’t find that effectively or whatever. So that’s kind of like what I think would be nervous in the lead up and stuff, but a lot of people have registered. So I really think that things are looking good and my hope, yeah, is that it just goes as well as last year or better and we’re able to create some discussions which stick around for future Googlers, to people who are just looking for answers to find them because we’re putting a lot of stuff out there in terms of the shared space that’s going to be there for future help and things like that. And all the talks are I think really, really important that we’re giving some of these talks a platform. I really guarantee that if people show up and we don’t have any big glitches or anything like that, that the overall impact is going to be like one of the bigger things CodeNewbies do in a single day, like in a year. So some days you learn more than others. Some days are more impactful than others and I really hope and feel that CodeLand can be one of the more impactful days for CodeNewbies all over the world, especially in a time where finding a local meetup has just not necessarily happening everywhere or anywhere in the same way it used to and the opportunity to learn that little thing you didn’t even know, you didn’t need to know, or just like have a chance to meet one person, even just online or just exchange Twitter follows with somebody you see tweeting about the conference and things like that. I hope it’s just an opportunity for folks to come away better than if they hadn’t showed up.

[00:41:46] SY: Well, I’m excited for CodeLand. I know you are too, and I hope people listening join us for our second remote online only version of the conference. Thanks again, Ben, for joining us.

[00:41:58] BH: Yeah. Thanks for having me.

[00:42:16] SY: This episode was produced by Levi Sharpe and Gracie Gregory. Editing and mixing by Levi Sharpe. You can reach out to us on Twitter at CodeNewbies or send me an email, hello@codenewbie.org. Join us for our weekly Twitter chats. We’ve got our Wednesday chats at 9 P.M. Eastern Time and our weekly coding check-in every Sunday at 2 P.M. Eastern Time. For more info on the podcast, check out www.codenewbie.org/podcast. Thanks for listening. See you next week.

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